MEDFORD, MA -- A three-run first inning by the Tufts University softball team stood up Sunday as the Jumbos held off Williams, 3-2, in the championship game of the NESCAC Tournament.
The loss ended the Ephs three-year run as NESCAC champions and also their program-record 22-game winning streak. Williams fell to 33-5 overall and will await word on an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA will announce the 2019 tournament field Monday at 1 p.m. Tufts, which won its 11th title, improved to 30-8 and receives the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The Ephs outhit Tufts 7-2 in Sunday's title game, but stranded eight runners on base over the final five innings. Down 3-1 entering the top of the seventh, senior Kristina Alvarado led off with a single. Jessica Kim followed by lining a shot into the left-center field gap that Alvarado raced all the way home. The double made it 3-2 and had Kim on second with no outs, but Tufts hurler Kristi Van Meter retired the next three Ephs on a pop up, a groundout to short and another infield pop up to wiggle out of the jam and give Tufts its title.
A Williams outfield error on a fly ball by Jumbo sophomore 2B Emma Della Volpe got things started for Tufts in the first. When Jumbo sophomore SS Mia Steinberg hit a ground ball to third, the Ephs tried to make a play on Della Volpe advancing but she was safe. Senior RF Kristen Caporelli plated Della Volpe with a ground ball to short for the first run. Doubles by junior 1B Casey Maggiore and junior 3B Jamie Stevens scored Caporelli and Maggiore, respectively, and quickly it was 3-0.
Senior Mackenzie Murphy started in the circle for the Ephs. After the Jumbos first, she was perfect, retiring the final 16 batters she faced and all 15 from the bottom of the second through the bottom of the sixth. She received some help from second baseman Jenny Hickey, who made two stalwart stops on line drives that looked like singles-to-be.
Van Meter retired the first eight batters she faced before Alvarado doubled to center with two outs in the top of the third. Kim followed with another double down the left-field line scoring Alvarado for the Ephs' first run.
The Ephs got a runner to third with one out in the top of the fourth after freshman DP Mara Kipnis led off a single. However, Van Meter retired the next two batters on a foul out and a fly ball to end the inning. Then in the fifth, a pair of Tufts errors helped the Ephs put runners on second and third with two outs. Van Meter again got the final out on a pop-up. Williams then put two more runners on in the sixth and Van Meter squelched it with a strike out.
Kim had two hits and two RBI for Williams, while Alvarado finished with two hits and two runs. None of the three runs Murphy allowed were earned and she struck out four in her six innings.